NBC 7 Investigates: Police Face Difficulties Accessing Crucial Information During Callouts

Experts blame antiquated, disjointed and clunky law enforcement information databases

NBC 7's Alexis Rivas is looking further into SDPD's response to reports of violence at a Rancho Penasquitos woman's condo, and heard from a police chief about why police may have had bad information.

The circumstances surrounding the death of a Rancho Penasquitos woman are raising questions about what exactly police know when they respond to calls. An NBC 7 Investigation last month took a close look at the scrutiny San Diego Police are facing about their actions the night before Connie Dadkhah’s body was found inside her condo.

About 12 hours before the discovery, San Diego Police decided not to force their way inside. They’d arrived on the scene nearly two hours after multiple neighbors called 911 repeatedly. First, neighbors told dispatchers a screaming man was trying to break into Connie’s condo and then reported he successfully smashed his way in through a patio sliding glass door. When police arrived, they didn’t get an answer when they knocked on the front door and called Connie’s phone. So they left.

An undated photo of Connie Dadkhah
Connie Dadkhah Family
An undated photo of Connie Dadkhah

San Diego Police homicide Lt. Steve Sheblowski says the decision not to enter the condo was based on one piece of information.

“There was a reasonable interpretation that this man lived there,” Shebloski said.

Shebloski shared a bit of what he says the responding officers saw on their patrol car computer screens that night. One sentence linking Connie’s address to the suspect. Police say this bit of information, known as a PAC file, is why officers believed he might live there, and that’s why they decided against forcing their way into Connie’s condo.

San Diego Police cite this "PAC File" to explain why they thought the suspect lived at Connie Dadkhah's address.
San Diego Police cite this "PAC File" to explain why they thought the suspect lived at Connie Dadkhah's address.

NBC 7 Investigates hasn’t been able to confirm whether the suspect ever lived with Connie, but discovered there was other information available that may have led police to make different decisions that night.

That includes:

  • A report detailing a police callout to the condo in April, two months before Connie was killed, where officers responded to a violent incident between her and the suspect. Officers reported she had visible injuries. A video that NBC 7 has seen, which has not been made public, shows the officers taking photos of Connie’s neck and arm. Connie told police the suspect did not live there and said there was no prior domestic relationship between the two.
  • The suspect was arrested and charged with vandalism in 2020. He pleaded guilty, and his probation for the case included a court order to stay away from Connie. That was still in effect when she died.
  • That active probation also included a 4th amendment waiver, which allows police to search the suspect in public or enter his home, without a warrant.

Police tell us the officers who responded the night of June 14 didn’t know about the April incident. However, police won’t reveal if officers knew the suspect was on probation, only saying they would have had to make an effort to search for that information.

NBC 7 Investigates asked police for more examples of PAC files to see what kind of information they usually contain, but an SDPD spokesman said they won’t release that information, and they aren’t public records. We’ve also asked multiple times for an interview with Chief David Nisleit to answer questions that have come up since our original story aired. We’ve been told he’s simply too busy.

We're fighting a little bit of the CSI myth...

Chief Rick Scott, San Luis Obispo Police Department

Many of those questions relate to exactly what officers know when they respond to emergencies. We’ve learned antiquated software and multiple databases create an information breakdown, which often keeps police officers in the dark. To better understand exactly what information officers have at their fingertips, and what they don’t, NBC 7 Investigates drove six hours to sit down with a police chief who wasn’t too busy for our questions.

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Rick Scott gave us a crash course on law enforcement databases.

“We’re fighting a little bit of the CSI myth,” Scott told us. “When the show CSI came out there was a big misunderstanding that all police departments have this vast array of resources to solve crime, and that’s simply not the case.”

The number of connected systems and databases is extensive.

“We have our computer-aided dispatch,” Scott said. “That’s maps and locations of where you need to go. Then we have our RMS, which is our records management system of reports that have been written. Then we have our names database, and that’s people that we’ve come across in the past where we’ve run your license or given you a citation that will live in our names database. And then we also have a connection to an outside database which is our court system, and then another connection to a state or federal database, which is our background or criminal history check system. All of those things typically do not live in one computer system and we have to go to different areas to collect that information.”

When emergencies happen, time is a major factor. Scott described what it’s like for officers who may have a few minutes to drive to a call. They may not be sure what information to look for, never mind which system would have it. In addition, each police department uses different software depending on what they can afford. The result, he says, is a convoluted, outdated network of information that isn’t standardized and was never designed to share information.

Who runs their business on 15-year-old technology? No one.

Chief Rick Scott, San Luis Obispo Police Department

“I think you’re seeing how these systems are disconnected and they really are,” Scott said. “And that’s a challenge across all of law enforcement.”

Chief Scott agreed that it feels like the wild west.

“That’s one of the challenges we have, just sharing information sometimes internally among our staff can be a challenge because these systems are so disparate it’s very difficult to integrate them and there's a significant cost to doing so,” Scott said.

Scott told us many police departments use software that’s clunky by today’s standards.

“Who runs their business on 15-year-old technology? No one,” said Scott.

NBC 7 Investigates also spoke with Cameron Gary about the importance of getting responding officers information to help them make life-saving decisions. Gary has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement, working with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s office. He recalls cases where a lack of information greatly changed the way he responded to calls. 

After seeing our investigation into the police response to Connie’s death, Gary told us, “My only question is what did they know?”

Like every expert we’ve talked to since our first story about Connie’s death aired, Gary believes there was enough context at the scene to force entry, even if officers didn’t know about the 4th amendment waiver or the court’s stay-away order.

“When I saw it I was like, ‘Wow, you couldn't do a welfare check?’” Gary said. “Do a welfare check, man, at the very least. And then if it's nothing, you know 'Hey, I'm sorry. We broke your door. The city, we're going to pay for, sorry, but we're going to be sure that no one's hurt.’ I think that's our first priority.”

While San Diego Police continue to review this incident, one way Gary says we can make sure this never happens again is to improve the way officers get and share information.

“We need to find a way to better enable these officers or better inform them,” Gary said. “So that way they'll have as much information as possible to make the best possible decision to keep somebody from being hurt or even killed in this case.”

NBC 7 Investigates repeatedly asked San Diego Police for a full list of the law enforcement database systems it uses, but they never gave us the information. So we looked through publicly-available SDPD policy and procedure documents, training manuals and public records portals. Here are just some of the databases that are used and what they do.

  • NetRMS - Network Records Management System -  An internal San Diego Police Department application used for storage and retrieval of information collected by law enforcement personnel
  • ARJIS - Automatic Regional Justice Information System - A countywide system, which includes, but is not limited to, crime, adult arrest, juvenile contact, field interview, misdemeanor citation, traffic accident, and traffic citation information.
  • San Diego County Computer System -  A countywide system, which includes, but is not limited to, local criminal history information, County Jail booking information, City Attorney, District Attorney, Courts, and Probation information.
  • CLETS - California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System -  A statewide system, which includes, but is not limited to, state criminal history, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records, missing persons, stolen vehicle, and stolen property files. That system is also connected to NCIC - National Crime Information Center, CJIS - Criminal Justice Information Services, and NLETS - the International Justice & Public Safety Network.

Chief Scott said he’d like to see these types of database systems standardized into one but says that’s unlikely because of the cost. He says it could work on a regional level, where local law enforcement agencies access and share information the same way. 

“There is a higher level of expectation from our community about our capabilities,” Scott said. “You have a certain type of experience with other technologies that are normal to you. We need to replicate that experience with law enforcement.”

To accomplish that, Scott says his department will soon offer a mobile app service similar to one you might use when ordering food delivery. If you call 911, it will tell you what time to expect officers, if a report is taken, what the next steps are and ask for your feedback on your experience with police.

The man accused of killing Connie, Parrish Chambers Jr., is charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

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